In for the thrill

Top fuel bike-haul­ing Ken­worth T909

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BRIS­BANE BUSI­NESS­MAN CHRIS MATHE­SON is a man ob­sessed with speed and horse­power. He is the quick­est man on two wheels in the south­ern hemi­sphere, a five-time pro drag rac­ing cham­pion, and is cur­rently on a quest to be­come the first Aus­tralian mo­tor­cy­cle racer to com­plete 400 me­tres in un­der six sec­onds! He cur­rently holds both elapsed time and speed record on the na­tional cir­cuit in 6.04 sec­onds at 389km/h (241.8mph) on board a 1,500hp ma­chine known as ‘Nitro Voodoo’. While a lot more se­date, Chris’s other pas­sion is driv­ing his truck nick­named ‘The Re­cal­ci­trant’.

At the top level of drag rac­ing, a lot of pro­fes­sional teams travel in style with big rigs and trans­porters. With cham­pi­onship rounds in most states of Aus­tralia, it’s im­por­tant to have plenty of room, not only for the rac­ing ve­hi­cle or bike but also spares, fuel, equip­ment, work­shop and a quiet room to chill out, eat and drink.

“As a five times na­tional cham­pion and record holder, I owe a big part of my suc­cess to our trans­porter com­bi­na­tion,” Chris says.

He hauls his race setup to all points of Aus­tralia with a 2013 Ken­worth T909, and says driv­ing the ‘K Whop­per’ is an en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween races.

“While some race driv­ers pre­fer to take the quick route in a com­mer­cial plane, I ac­tu­ally love the soli­tude on the road and the op­por­tu­nity to see fa­mil­iar faces and land­scapes as we ven­ture to the next round of rac­ing. The Ken­worth runs a 550 Cum­mins and 18-speed Road Ranger with all the fruit,” Chris ex­plains.

For­merly a long-dis­tance hauler, the prime mover spent its early life run­ning be­tween Perth, Ade­laide, and Syd­ney as part of South Aus­tralian­based Craig Arthur’s fleet. Chris, how­ever, bought the truck specif­i­cally to tow the bike setup around Aus­tralia to con­test the na­tional cham­pi­onship se­ries.

“We needed some­thing safe, re­li­able and a pack­age that would do any trip with ease. This truck is ideal, it’s got loads of grunt and fits the bill,” he adds. “I had Big Rigs Aus­tralia in Bris­bane build a cus­tom race trailer to suit not only my setup, but a trailer that had flex­i­bil­ity to suit other cat­e­gories of mo­tor­sport rac­ing.

“This would en­sure the trailer had mul­ti­ple uses to suit a va­ri­ety of own­ers in the fu­ture.

“I had looked at buy­ing a num­ber of used race trans­porters be­fore build­ing this one. Most had fixed mez­za­nine floors, which re­ally re­stricts what you can put into the trailer due to the height be­tween floors.

“An­other prob­lem with many trail­ers is load­ing through the rear door and los­ing in­ter­nal clear­ance due to the ride height of the rear wheels and sus­pen­sion con­fig­u­ra­tion. Ideally you want two flat floors with a room on top of the goose­neck.”

Cus­tom trailer

Af­ter con­sid­er­ing var­i­ous op­tions Chris de­cided on a Freighter drop deck bo­gie wheel­base and solid gel coated walls with only one joint. The ad­van­tage was time, weight, qual­ity of fin­ish and strength.

This de­sign al­lowed the fit­ment of an alu­minium ad­justable mez­za­nine floor, which is in seg­ments. What this does is al­low quick and easy ad­just­ments to suit all heights of race ve­hi­cles or freight. This type of de­sign also al­lows the mez­za­nine floor to be used as a ser­vice hoist pit at race

meet­ings as you can re­move the cen­tre floor in­sert to give clear ac­cess for ser­vic­ing or re­pair to the un­der­side of the race ve­hi­cle. The per­fo­rated mez­za­nine floor also pro­vides max­i­mum light from the LEDs through­out the trailer.

“The floor is light and has a huge load ca­pac­ity giv­ing max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity,” Chris ex­plains.

“The con­fig­u­ra­tion we have can eas­ily carry four large race ve­hi­cles with am­ple room for tools, spares, and work­bench ar­eas and still pro­vide easy ac­cess.

“At the track we have a dou­ble pas­sen­ger door into the side of the trailer with fold-out steps. These steps are load rated, al­low­ing ve­hi­cles to be parked on them when they are stowed for tran­sit. We de­signed the trailer to suit mul­ti­ple mo­tor­sport uses from Speed­way, Su­per­cars, cir­cuit rac­ers and ex­tra-long ve­hi­cles such as top fuel drag­sters.”

The goose­neck area is sep­a­rate from the ve­hi­cle stor­age area and pro­vides an area to re­lax with all the mod cons. It’s air con­di­tioned, has a fridge, sinks and a ta­ble so we can go over our com­puter data af­ter each run. It also al­lows team mem­bers to take a break from the race en­vi­ron­ment as some events can run over three to four days.

“Keep­ing in mind the need to be able to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent race ve­hi­cles, we fit­ted a 2.5-tonne high lift elec­tric over hy­draulic rear door which has three re­tractable ramps,” Chris says. “This al­lows ve­hi­cles to be loaded di­rectly into the rear of the trans­porter ei­ther at ground or mez­za­nine level.”

An­other fea­ture of the de­sign that Chris added was to pro­vide a walk­way plat­form on the roof to dou­ble as an ob­ser­va­tion deck. It also gives ac­cess to al­low in­stal­la­tion of a wall-mounted pit awning.

“The race trailer is our one-stop shop while we are on the road away rac­ing. It needs to be a work­shop, parts store and a home away from home on wheels.”

Chris says the team at Big Rigs Aus­tralia in the Bris­bane sub­urb of Aca­cia Ridge ex­celled in the de­liv­ery of the trailer.

“It was a cus­tom job with plenty of chal­lenges along the way of which the guys stepped up and de­liv­ered.”

He adds that the con­fig­u­ra­tion and fi­nal de­sign was the re­sult of years of rac­ing and ob­serv­ing many other trans­porters along the way.

“I took notes of the good, the bad and the ugly,” Chris says. “That ul­ti­mately led to the de­sign of a top-qual­ity strong light­weight race trailer with max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity to suit dif­fer­ent race ve­hi­cles.”

Re­li­able K100

Chris is no stranger to the Ken­worth brand. His for­mer trans­porter was a 1977 model K100 Ken­worth 20T Pan­tech with a Cum­mins 400 big cam and 13-speed Road Ranger.

“The old girl took me to all the points of the map and never let me down,” Chris re­flects. “It was a great truck. We won three na­tional cham­pi­onships as a re­sult of that re­li­able old truck. It was un­stop­pable.

“I re­call with fond mem­o­ries pulling into road­houses at Port Au­gusta, the Nullar­bor and across Aus­tralia. Young guys would just stare at it won­der­ing ‘what the hell is that!’ They couldn’t be­lieve it was so old.”

The 56-year-old has al­ways had a pas­sion for fast mo­tor­cy­cles. At the age of 13 Chris was rac­ing any­thing and ev­ery­thing from dirt bikes, short cir­cuit mo­tocross then onto the big road bikes later in his teens.

“I pretty much then stopped rid­ing bikes to forge a ca­reer

“The floor is light and has a huge load ca­pac­ity giv­ing max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity.”

in busi­ness un­til my late 40s. It was then that I re­alised if I was go­ing to be No.1 in top fuel mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing, I needed to hurry up as I was not get­ting any younger,” Chris smiles.

In 2010 he had a plan and went over to the US and pur­chased the quick­est mo­tor­cy­cle in the world (at the time).

“I wanted to have a bike that al­ready had run into the fivesec­ond zone and would win cham­pi­onships.

“These bikes are very danger­ous in the wrong hands and can re­ally get your at­ten­tion if you are not on your game. Push­ing out over 1,500 horse­power, 400km/h over 400 me­tres in six sec­onds is cer­tainty not for the faint hearted.

“The bike car­ries the front wheel the length of the track, burn­ing 20 litres of nitro through a su­per­charged 1.5-litre four-cylin­der bomb. It does al­most 100mph [160km/h] in one sec­ond from the mo­ment I see a green light and twist the grip to launch. Af­ter that it’s a foot­ball field per sec­ond in the sec­ond half of the track.

“Like I said ear­lier, rid­ing these mis­siles is not for the faint hearted. When I talk to fans at the track or peo­ple in the busi­ness world, they shake their heads and be­lieve me to be bloody crazy. I’ve had my fair share of ac­ci­dents in­clud­ing be­ing elec­tro­cuted and blown off the bike.”

Into the zone

Chris’s goal right now is to try and re­write his own records and ul­ti­mately be­come the first rider in the south­ern hemi­sphere to break into the five-sec­ond zone, some­thing that has not been achieved on Aus­tralian soil – yet!

“We are well ahead of the pack, how­ever a num­ber of other four-cylin­der nitro bikes have the po­ten­tial to run equally fast, but that only pushes me to go quicker and faster,” he says. “I love noth­ing more than a chal­lenge.

“The weather and track also plays a huge role in run­ning fast num­bers. With the right con­di­tions I am con­fi­dent we will crack into the five-sec­ond bar­rier.

“Af­ter that my plan is to head over to the USA to race against some of the best and fastest rid­ers in the world. The bar is cur­rently at 5.61 sec­onds set by my good friend Larry ‘Spi­der­man’ McBride.

“In the mean­time we will keep chas­ing cham­pi­onships in Aus­tralia and fo­cus on the job at hand,” Chris says.

“I am very for­tu­nate my wife lets me do what I do and backs me all the way. With­out my crew and ex­cel­lent sup­port through truck re­pair­ers John Bell, Big Rigs Aus­tralia and my fan­tas­tic spon­sors, we sim­ply wouldn’t be able to achieve what we have.”

Chris ex­plains that the team at John Bell Trans­port Re­pairs in Rock­lea, Bris­bane has ser­viced and main­tained his trucks since 2008.

“John has been a rock with ex­per­tise en­sur­ing the truck gets us to and from the race­track on time with­out any grief.”

In the mean­time, if you are on the road and driv­ing be­hind a huge mu­ral of the ‘Nitro Voodoo’, you’re fol­low­ing Chris’s trans­port truck. Give him a wave as he’s al­ways up for a chat – whether its drag rac­ing, mo­tor­bikes or trucks!

Top: Chris Mathe­son loves get­ting be­hind the wheel of his 2013 Ken­worth T909 which he calls ‘The Re­cal­ci­trant’Above L to R: The mu­ral at the rear of Chris Mathe­son’s trailer can’t be missed; The Ken­worth’s unique ‘Nitro Voodoo’ bon­net or­na­ment is a work in progress. Chris is plan­ning to place lights in the eyes and have smoke com­ing from the mask breathers

Top: In­side the trailer’s ‘chill room’. Ev­ery­thing you need in a mo­bile of­ficeAbove: There’s am­ple stor­age space within the cus­tom trailerBe­low L to R: Mix­ing with the fans at Syd­ney Drag­way; Pre­par­ing for the sea­son fi­nale Win­ter­na­tion­als at Wil­low­bank Race­way in June. Photo by Chris Mathe­son Rac­ingOp­po­site: The highly cus­tomised Freighter trailer, Chris’s home away from home

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